This past month studying and commentating on the new Red Pine edition of the Lankavatara Sutra has truly been an auspicious time for me; my hope is that this may prove of some benefit for present and future students of the Buddhadharma.
At the beginning of this blog series I remember writing how I hoped that this new translation would be the definitive Lanka for new generations of dharma-students. Red Pine is to be highly commended for rendering this new and vibrant translation for readers of the 21st century; his choice of utilizing a reductionist approach, i.e., breaking the verse structure down so that it is inviting and comforting for the modern reader will prove to be invaluable for all newcomers to what is considered to be a difficult Mahayana/Yogacara Text. It was indeed an enjoyable and smooth read, quite different from the former Suzuki effort, yet, it would be most inopportune to toss that former scholarly effort into the waste bin. Suzuki’s grasp of significant qualifiers, like arya-jnana, is more faithful to the original intent of the Lanka—and that is primarily addressing this text to the “Noble Ones”, the advanced Maha-Bodhisattvas who were spiritually ready to hear the immeasurable gnosis of the Buddhadharma. Red Pine’s decision to render this as exclusively buddha-jnana makes this reading an all-inclusive endeavor, yet its underlying current of “personal revelation” as opposed to “Noble self-realization” truly weakens the authentic Lankavatarian import of the message. In this sense, his effort cannot be considered as the “definitive-translation”, but side by side with Suzuki’s work it stands as a faithful, if more energetic, twin of these renditions.
It was well-worth the wait for Red Pine’s excellent gift for all students of the Buddhadharma. It will also, I’m sure, be worth it as we await others to also venture-forth into the noble waters of the Lanka and bring home their own crafted catch.